Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Teaching Tomorrow's Grillers Today

Back in June I struck up a conversation with a rising college senior at Davidson College. I wish I could say that I remember how the conversation turned to outdoor cooking, but hey. If you're talking to me, the conversation is going to find its way around to outdoor cooking. His girlfriend and her roommates had just acquired a used propane grill.

Intuitively he felt that propane cooking wasn't the same as cooking on live coal fire. I tried to convince him that there's a time and place for all sorts of grills in this world. But he wanted to know more about cooking over coals and after seeing him on subsequent occasions we continued the conversation.

Ultimately we found time on Saturday to get together for a little grilling colloquium. I gave him a full range of options of things to cook. He liked the idea of doing a beer can chicken and some atomic buffalo turds. Can you blame him?

When he came over, I'd already sliced the jalapeƱos and scraped out the membranes. I'd also mixed up the stuffing for the ABTs.
I browned two tubes of chorizo earlier in the day and set it in the fridge for use later on when I had time to mix up the rest of the ingredients.

Atomic Buffalo Turd stuffing:
  • 2 tubes chorizo, browned
  • one packet of cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 yellow onion finely chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon minced garlic
Mix all of this until you get a yellow-orange goo.
Stuff the goo into the peppers.
Wrap the peppers with bacon and spear with a toothpick.

I cooked these indirect at 325f until the bacon was crispy.
I had all of the goo ready to go when he came over so he could get to work stuffing the peppers and wrapping them with bacon. You think this guy's a natural? Obviously a Marylander down to his bones, as he was stuffing the peppers he wondered, "How do you think these would be stuffed with crab meat?" Man, I don't know, but now I want to try it. I think he's going to do just fine out in the world.

I also had him light the coals and prep the bird and do all the other stuff. I believe in "learning by doing." The coals were getting going while we prepared the chicken. They got really hot--like up around 550f, which is too hot for what we wanted to do, so I choked everything down. Right after that I remembered some finer point or another that I wanted to explain, so I hoisted the lid right back up:

WHOOSH! Just like that I took a good bit of hair off my forearm. Well, It's also important to know what NOT to do, right? My guess is that he'll remember the fireball that erupted from my Big Green Egg. The question is: When am I going to learn?

We ended up with a mighty fine meal on our hands. This is how I do my take on Beer Can Chicken.

  • Take a can of beer (or other favorite beverage) and do rock paper scissors to see who has to (gets to?) drink off 1/2 of the contents.
  • Using a church key open the can in a couple of other places up top so that it's well-ventilated. 
  • Into the can I drop some bits of celery, carrots and onion and set aside.
  • Rinse off bird and dry with paper towels.
  • Rub with McCormick's Montreal Chicken Seasoning (which the pupil was quick to point out came from Maryland)
  • Into the bird I stuffed the other half of the onion from the ABT mix along with some carrots and celery.
  • Ease the chicken onto the can and set it all onto the grill using the legs and can as a tripod of support.
  • Cook indirectly at 325f until the breast meat is 160f and the thighs are 180f (90 min to 2 hours). It's nice with a handful of soaked apple wood chips.
  • Don't forget how blasted hot the can and its contents will be. Use tongs to remove and discard before turning the bird over for carving.
  • Carve, serve and enjoy

For me this was nothing but good fun. I hope our guest had a good time. Next fall he'll be in the classrooms of Baltimore with Teach For America. That right there is hard, noble work. I wish him the best. Maybe he'll have a grill to blow off steam on the occasional weekend and can tell me how his ABTs with crabmeat turn out.


  1. I cannot help but wonder if you could do a beer can turkey. Maybe use one of those gigantic cans of Fosters....


    1. James, That would be fun to try on a turkey. Great idea. Here's a big old fryer chicken sitting on a "tall boy."

  2. You are officially now a BBQ mentor. Teach your apprentice well ;)